• Talcott unit said to draw interest from Apollo, Berkshire
  • Sale of Talcott could fetch $3 billion to $4 billion

Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. is working with JPMorgan Chase & Co. to see if the insurer can find a buyer for Talcott Resolution, the unit that includes U.S. variable annuities, according to people familiar with the matter.

Apollo Global Management LLC, Wilton Re Holdings Ltd., Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and JC Flowers & Co. are among potential bidders who have expressed interest, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are private. Talcott could fetch $3 billion to $4 billion in a sale, they said.

Talcott includes so-called runoff coverage, or segments where Hartford is no longer writing new contracts, and had about $4.7 billion of statutory capital at the end of June, according to financial statements. Hartford has been exiting such policies in recent years through a variety of transactions, and Chief Financial Officer Beth Bombara, who previously led Talcott, said Sept. 12 that the insurer sees the possible advantage of a larger deal.

“We’re always open to looking at other ways to move the risk to someone else,” Bombara said at a conference hosted by Barclays Plc. “Ideally, we would like to find a solution where we were able to transfer all of the liabilities and the legal entities, not do it via reinsurance. When you do pieces, reinsurance gets a little difficult.”

Hartford climbed 1.1 percent to $42.42 at 2:10 p.m. Wednesday, narrowing its loss for the year to 2.4 percent. The Insurance Insider reported earlier on efforts to sell the unit. Michelle Loxton, a spokeswoman for Hartford, which is based in the Connecticut city of the same name, declined to comment.

Narrowing Focus

Selling Talcott would help Hartford focus on auto insurance, where the company has been caught off guard by higher-than-expected claims costs, Credit Suisse Group AG analysts led by Ryan Tunis said in a note. They said the range of $3 billion to $4 billion could be a “conservative estimate.”

Jennifer Hurson, a spokeswoman for JC Flowers, declined to comment, as did a representative for JPMorgan. Charles Zehren, a spokesman for Apollo, didn’t respond to a message. Nor did Wilton Re’s Ray Eckert or Warren Buffett, the chairman of Berkshire.

Hartford struck a deal in 2013 to sell a U.K. variable-annuity business to Berkshire, and agreed the next year to sell a Japanese operation to Orix Corp.

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